The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is drastic. Whether the crime or crimes you are arrested for in New York involve those of the white collar or street variety, any criminal conviction is permanent. With a felony conviction, however, there is greater exposure to collateral consequences. When an offense involves a theft or fraud crime, such as Grand Larceny, Petit Larceny and Criminal Possession of Stolen Property, those secondary issues may actually be first and foremost on your list of concerns after incarceration. For example, are you licensed through FINRA? Do you work at an FDIC insured bank? Are you a legal resident, applying for a visa or interested in becoming a United States citizen? If so, will the felony trigger a review of immigration because it is deemed a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude or and Aggravated Felony?
Staying with larceny and theft crimes that occur in New York City or elsewhere in the State of New York, one of many things you should discuss with your own criminal defense attorney or defense lawyer is whether or not the charge you face can be knocked down or decreased to a less serious crime. Even better, can it be lessened to a non-criminal offense or be dismissed all together? Where you are arrested for and charged with a crime involving theft or larceny in New York, one means to investigate or defensive channel to pursue to limit your criminal exposure and collateral consequences is to attack the manner or method by which the District Attorney establishes value of the stolen property. If the prosecution lacks the proper evidence or your criminal defense lawyer can poke holes in the valuation to decrease it below certain thresholds, then your case can potentially be reduced from a greater felony to a lesser one and possibly out of a felony all together. Certainly, this defense is worthy of exploration in applicable cases and the following blog addresses an example right on point.
In People v. Slack, 2016 NY Slip Op 1930 – NY App. Div. 4th Dept., 2016., a jury convicted the defendant of Third Degree Grand Larceny pursuant to New York Penal Law 155.35. The elements of this offense require that the prosecution prove that the accused stole property and that property was valued in excess of $3,000, but not greater than $50,000. A class “D” felony, a conviction for Third Degree Grand Larceny carries a sentence of up to two and one third to seven years in prison for a person with a clean criminal history. If a convicted defendant has a prior felony in the preceding ten years, then he or she would face a mandatory minimum of between two to four years and a maximum sentence of three and one half to seven years in prison.
The relevant facts in Slack related to the victim’s testimony at trial regarding property that the defendant stole. In lieu of having an actual expert testify, the victim stated what he purchased the various items for and how, collectively, the value was in excess of $3,000.00. Further, there was reference to an expert’s valuation, but without the actual expert testifying this evidence was considered hearsay. Because this type of evidence was insufficient to establish value and a felony offense, the Court stated:
“The value of stolen property is ‘the market value of the property at the time and place of the crime, or if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the crime’ (Penal Law § 155.20 ). It is well settled that ‘a victim must provide a basis of knowledge for his [or her] statement of value before it can be accepted as legally sufficient evidence of such value’ (People v Lopez, 79 NY2d 402, 404). Furthermore, ‘[c]onclusory statements and rough estimates of value are not sufficient’ to establish the value of the property (People v Loomis, 56 AD3d 1046, 1047; see People v Walker, 119 AD3d 1402, 1402-1403; People v Pallagi, 91 AD3d 1266, 1269). ‘Although a victim is competent to supply evidence of original cost’ . . ., evidence of the original purchase price, without more, will not satisfy the People’s burden’ (People v Geroyianis, 96 AD3d 1641, 1644, lv denied 19 NY3d 996, reconsideration denied 19 NY3d 1102).”
While the above case demonstrates what is insufficient to establish value, a central element to any Grand Larceny case, merely because value is not ascertained does not mean that Slack, or any defendant for that matter, merely walks away from a theft. Why? Any theft, regardless of value, constitutes the misdemeanor of Petit Larceny, New York Penal Law 155.25. An “A” misdemeanor, PL 155.25 is a crime that has an accompanying sentence of up to one year in jail. That said, barring grounds to challenge the alleged wrongful taking or that you are the person who stole property, a Petit Larceny misdemeanor is far better than a Grand Larceny felony in terms of criminal exposure and collateral consequences.
To learn about all forms of larceny from NYC Shoplifting to Embezzlement in the City and State of New York, please review this blog, as well as the blogs and websites linked beneath. Readable and full of informative content, these resources serve as a great means to educate yourself preliminary on the New York Penal Law, your rights and potential defenses.
Crotty Saland PC is a New York criminal defense firm representing clients in all white collar, fraud and theft investigations, arrests, indictments and trials throughout New York City and many surrounding counties. The founding partners and criminal defense attorneys at Crotty Saland PC both served as prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.